As regular readers and followers on twitter know, for the last two years I have been looking after my severely disabled brother full time. That means 17 hours a day, with an average of 5 hours sleep – adrenaline surging in the early hours ready to deal with medical emergencies which happen at least once a week. He will need constant supervision till his last breath, though he is able bodied enough to be active but not aware of his own needs and safety or the capacity to look out for them.
So when the Royal College of General Practitioners addressed the health needs of carers I hope it has a positive response:
Dr Clare Gerada, RCGP chairman, told Sky News: “They have higher rates of mental health problems, higher rates of physical health problems, higher rates of financial problems.
“It’s very important we look after this hidden army of people that do a phenomenal job every single day across health and social care. – Sky News
The article mentions that the monetary value of what family carers do is over £100 billion. Which I can imagine given my own contribution to saving tax payers money is £72,000.
However, there are some like Colin Brewer who would like to save even more:
‘disabled children should be put down as they cost the council too much money’
This matters because he is an independent councillor, and has just been re-elected despite the media storm his comments provoked, in the county council where my brother and I reside.
His remarks were not enough for the people of his district to turf him out, or vote in sufficient numbers so he would not be re-elected. They have instead given him a platform to voice such views. The electorate have said:
The murder of the disabled to save money is acceptable public discourse.
How is that for stress?
Councillor Brewer has been back on form after his election victory supporting infanticide and a cost benefit analysis to the life of a disabled person comparing such a decision to support with funding public toilets – Source
Yet I remember eating with my brother in a restaurant and his favourite song came on. To which he stood up and danced to. So I joined in for a few seconds, then said to him we had better finish our food, and I sat down to eat, which he copied.
A gentleman of the age of Colin Brewer, as he passed by our table minutes later, placed his hand on my shoulder and said “You’re a good man doing a fine job”. The comment was like a weeks vacation in a moment. That kind of public support means the world.
I have received in the post today from Atos a twenty page document to explain why my brother will not be able to work. I get through the days and nights concentrating on the fun my brother can get out of life and how to expand that. A walk through the woods, running from the sea as it comes in, the way he dances for joy as the kettle boils.
He is already registered with the Department for Works and Pensions as being permanently severely mentally disabled, with no mental capacity. So for twenty pages I can be reminded of exactly what my brother cannot do, never be able to do, a life limited by something that never happened to me. I can add that paperwork this month to finances, meetings with his GP, meeting with his consultant, meeting with social worker, meeting with care agency, meeting with occupational therapist and the paperwork all this entails.
Then the small matter of looking after someone.
You wonder why carers do not have time to look after themselves? My concern is that one of the family carers’ greatest fear is that revealing the work load, and the stress, their role will be taken away from them or be judged as failing. So they try not to let on.
Besides the option to take the person you are caring for with you is often impractical – so who looks after them?
If they think the GP is going to quiz them to see how they are coping, carers may be even less likely to use their services for regular heath concerns and check ups. This needs to be done tactfully, or else the very thing it is meant to be helping with could make the present situation even worse.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog